10.17.2016

Eat the Guide: Canal Street Bistro

Hello and welcome to the NOiG series Eat the Guide!  In this series, I explore the scores of restaurants included in the NOIG Guide to Vegan-Friendly Restaurants.  You can follow along in the guide or right here on the blog, or both of course.  See previous posts here, and enjoy!

After a couple of weeks of super-low-key outings, we took it up a notch with a proper dinner at Canal Street Bistro.  Since the weather is finally getting a little cooler, we were able to walk to the restaurant - living in Mid-City has its perks. 

Appearance and Atmosphere:  Canal Street Bistro seems slightly confused.  Contained in a house the way so many charming New Orleans restaurants are, its interior is lovely and appears upscale.  There are even a couple of canopy chairs nestled into corners that would be rather fun to sit in on a special occasion like a birthday.  But the music they were playing on Saturday would be more fitting of a burger joint.  The flashing, multi-colored OPEN sign in the window too smacks more of a bar than of fine dining.  The table settings were neat and attractive, but had a distinctly summer feel to them which is a bit weird for October.

It's just as if the restaurant can't quite decide what it is trying to be.  Is it upscale or laid back?  It perhaps is trying to be both and it isn't working.  At least there are no televisions.  Before this visit I would have said go ahead and bring a (somewhat) fancy date here, but now I'm not sure.  There's nothing wrong with it per se; it just comes off as disjointed.

Hours of Operation:  If you do go out to dinner here I hope you're hungry early as they close at eight; it's more of a brunch spot.  Hours are as follows:  Wednesday - Friday 11am-8pm, Juice Bar 'till 6pm.  Saturday 9am-8pm, Brunch 'till 2pm.  Sunday 9am-2pm.  Closed Monday and Tuesday.

Service Style:  This is a full table service restaurant, including waiting to be seated.  Anticipate that brunch times will be busy.

Grilled Vegetable Napoleon
Available Vegan Options:  The Bistro seems to have given up on its old tofu offerings, which admittedly were not all that exciting.  Current vegan-as-ordered menu items include the grilled vegetable napoleon starter, the quinoa and avocado salad (the dressing contains honey but is unnecessary and can be put on the side), the sweet plantains side, and the Asian cole slaw side.  There are also a large number of dishes that are easily made vegan by removing the dairy, including:
  • roasted red pepper and carrot soup
  • guacamole
  • esquites
  • house salad
  • spinach and walnut salad
  • spinach almandine side
  • grilled squash side
  • poblano pepper side
So really, as long as you're comfortable alerting your server to your vegan needs, you can have a real feast here.

Alcohol or Espresso:  A full bar and wines are available.  Fresh juices and smoothies are also on order until 6pm.

Price Range:  Starters range from $5 to $9, salads $12 to $15, and entrees go way up from there but none are vegan.

Quinoa and Avocado Salad
My Experience:  When we arrived I was put off by the above-mentioned inconsistencies in the feel of the place.  However, the service turned our evening's experience from mediocre to excellent.  Our server Katua, taking interest in our vegan inquiries, struck up a conversation with us about veganism after getting detailed answers as to available vegan options. (Fear not - we were his only table so he wasn't neglecting anyone.)  He spoke highly of Chef Guillermo, and indeed the food did not disappoint.

We split the vegetable napoleon and the quinoa and avocado salad.  Of note, the salad is more of a quinoa and black bean plate with a sprinkle of greens and other vegetables.  It is substantial and delicious, and pairs perfectly with the balsamic-roasted vegetables of the napoleon.  We finished up with the sweet plantain side, which was just the right amount of sweetness to round out the meal.

Final Thoughts:  I'm torn.  Based on the food alone, I definitely recommend this restaurant.  It could be a great option when dining out with omni companions - though do expect that their meals will be more expensive than yours.   And I could easily be being too picky with my atmospheric complaints.  My best advice is to try it out with a trusted companion and see how it feels to you.

Sweet Plantains

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